North Carolina traffic violations come with a wide range of consequences. Though some traffic tickets are simply infractions, other traffic tickets are considered to be crimes in North Carolina. One such Traffic ticket in North Carolina is the offense of passing a stopped school bus.
North Carolina Statute
Passing a stopped school bus is governed by North Carolina General Statute G.S. 20-217(a). This statute requires the driver of a vehicle that approaches a school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area to stop and remain stopped when:
(1) the bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and
(2) is stopped for the purpose of allowing passengers to board or leave the bus.
The driver of the other vehicle may not move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after:
(1) the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn,
(2) the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and
(3) the bus has started to move.
DMV and Insurance Penalties
Passing a stopped school bus in North Carolina will result in five DMV points on your North Carolina driver’s license. This is the highest number of points assigned to any one traffic ticket charge in North Carolina.
Passing a stopped school bus also results in four insurance points, which will result in an 80% increase in your insurance rates.
Criminal penalties passing a stopped school bus
As stated previously, passing a stopped school bus is more than just a traffic infraction – it is actually a criminal charge. Passing a stopped school bus can be a Class 1 Misdemeanor, a Class I felony, or a Class H felony, depending on the facts and circumstances of the incident.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
Passing a stopped school bus, in violation of G.S. 20-217(a) when no injury or accident occurs is the least serious form of this violation – it is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. There are four classes of misdemeanors in North Carolina, and a Class 1 misdemeanor is the second most serious level of the four levels of misdemeanors. To put this traffic ticket charge into perspective, some other misdemeanors that are considered to be in the same class of severity as passing a stopped school bus (Class 1) include larceny, communicating threats, possession of drug paraphernalia, and prostitution.
Class I Felony
A driver who willfully passes a stopped school bus and in doing so strikes a pedestrian will be found guilty of a Class I felony.
Class H Felony
A driver who willfully violates G.S. 20-217(a), strikes a person, and in doing so causes the person’s death, is guilty of a Class H felony.
Just like every other criminal charge in North Carolina, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, or admits guilt. One of the problems that occur when a traffic ticket is also a criminal charge is that the recipient of that traffic ticket often fails to realize that by simply “paying the traffic ticket,” they are providing the state with their admission of guilt.
Traffic tickets can involve some complicated law that your average driver may not be familiar with. If you get a traffic ticket, it is best to contact a traffic lawyer before taking any further action.